Are You Living in the Kingdom of God?
“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking,
but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Rom 14:17
A Kingdom Not of this World
Paul is addressing problems that existed in the Roman church. These issues are very much a snare to us today. But we must understand the nature of the problem. For example, why is there a conflict between “eating and drinking” and “righteousness and peace and joy”?
To begin with, we must recognize the hostile coexistence of two kingdoms—the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world, under the power and authority of Satan. The power of God’s kingdom is Truth, which works out in righteousness. The working power of Satan is lies (Joh 8:44), which manifests in unbelief and sins against God. The Kingdom of God works on selflessness and personal sacrifice; the kingdom of Satan works on selfishness and greed. With the finished work of Christ, Satan’s power has been broken, and his works stand condemned (Joh 16:11).
When Jesus stood before Pilate, He was accused of making Himself a king (Luk 23:2). This was a serious charge, considered to be a crime against Caesar—worthy of death. When asked by Pilate concerning this, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Joh 18:36).
Entrance into the Kingdom of God
In order to become a member of the Kingdom of God, it is essential for us to be “reborn” (Joh 3:3, Joh 3:7). This is the work we call regeneration: to be “born again,” or “born from above.” When Nicodemus asked Jesus how this was possible, His extended answer (Joh 3:10–21) repeated the one and only condition seven times, in the word “believe.”
Jesus was often asked about the way to enter eternal life. Once, the disciples asked Him “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Mat 18:1). Jesus’ answer must have shocked them. In essence, He responded, “Before you worry about who is greatest, be sure you know how to enter.” Here is what He said:
“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little
children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mat 18:3
The word “converted” means “to be turned about,” and is in the passive voice. It is the passive side of the word “repent,” which means “to change the mind, to change direction.” This whole procedure is impossible without the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, revealing to us the sin of unbelief, and its root—independent self-reliance (Joh 16:7–11).
Jesus is saying that salvation occurs when we cease to rely on ourselves and, like little children, see our helplessness and trust solely in the Person of the Savior and His finished work on the cross. The Gospel is easy for children to understand and believe. However, it always seems to raise the ire of seemingly “good” men and women, because they want to cling to some merit in themselves.
Thy Kingdom Come
Jesus taught the disciples and us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mat 6:10). This is the first and foremost, request of the model prayer. The implication is very simple, yet amazingly powerful. God reigns where His Word is obeyed and His will is being done.
At the moment of our salvation, a great spiritual transfer took place. Paul says, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col 1:13). As newborn children of God, it is His will for us to grow into mature sons (Eph 4:12–15; 1Pe 2:2). The reasons for this plan are many, but one aspect is that God wants us to live kingdom lives and, therefore, be able claim our inheritance (Col 3:23–24).
The Responsibilities of Citizenship
Paul urged his students to always remember that they were citizens of Heaven, with a heavenly calling (Phi 3:20–21). This earth is not our home; we are pilgrims just passing through this world (1Pe 2:11). Though we are in this world, we are not of this world (Joh 17:16).
Our time here has one ultimate objective—to worship and glorify God in order to be His witnesses, pointing men and women to faith in Jesus Christ (1Pe 1:17–19). We possess the privileges and treasures of Heaven (Eph 1:3), and they are to be used to further His kingdom.
The Essence of Kingdom Life
Every kingdom is under a king and, depending on the nature and character of the king, the law or laws of the kingdom are set. In the Kingdom of God, there is one supreme law. Because “God is love” (1Jo 4:8, 1Jo 4:16), the over-ruling law of His kingdom is love.
The nature of love is beautifully portrayed by Paul in 1Co 13:4–8. Love is sacrificial and places others above self. As Paul put it, “Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:10).
This now brings us back to our main text. Some in the Roman church were demanding the right to “eat and drink” regardless of how it affected others. They had failed to follow Paul’s example, who though he had the right to eat and drink certain things, was willing to restrict himself for the sake of others (1Co 9:4). Love demands that each of us be willing to restrict certain activities, which may be questionable to others (Rom 14:1–13).
The willingness to live within the limits of the “law of love” produces “righteousness and peace and joy,” not only for ourselves, but for those around us. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). When we live by the power of the Spirit, we produce the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22–23) and conduct ourselves as adult sons, reflecting the majesty of the King. “For as many as are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Rom 8:14, emphasis added). The word “sons” here is a reference to “mature, adult sons.” Mature believers are habitually led by the Spirit of God and conduct themselves as those worthy of the kingdom (2Th 1:4–5).
Every day, we face the choice whether we will live in honor of our Savior and King, or whether we will live for self. Paul exhorts us to choose the kingdom-life!
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace
and the things by which one may edify another.” Rom 14:19